In the last article, fear was referenced as the primary reason our nation’s brightest students are ignored. Fear is the foundational emotion that has prohibited our nation’s public schools from serving our brightest students for decades. As with any problem, once identified, progress can be made. There are many options public schools have for lessening fear of teachers and gaining the confidence and knowledge to offer our most advanced students educational options that will help them stay engaged and connected to their learning.
A primary step is to recognize that there is no single right answer for serving bright students. This realization can be critical in alleviating pressure for both educators and parents. Another critical step is to commit to the belief that all students have a right to an education that supports him/her in reaching his/her fullest potential, and that our job as educators is to challenge each learner’s individual development, regardless of the learner’s determined grade level. The commitment to providing services with integrity is foundational. This commitment will support efforts to provide services, such as curriculum, that are not watered down. Another component of providing services with integrity is to have a process for identifying gifted students in place. Identification procedures often cause a great deal of stress either from fear of over-identification or under-identification of students. There is much information regarding the percentage of a student population that should be identified. The range can be as low as 3% to as high as 15%, and usually focuses on the intellectual ability of a learner, the IQ. Throw other concepts into the mix, such as physical intelligence and interpersonal intelligence and now identification can seem overwhelming. The state of Iowa has a procedure to help school districts identify students. Visit the department of education website (www.iowa.gov/educate) and use the navigational tool on the left side of the page to find advanced learning opportunities. Information on talented and gifted is found there. Finally, fear can be alleviated if there is a program component focused on evaluation. In our state, school support most often comes from the area education agency. This resource can support those serving our brightest students. The state website suggests some program evaluation components as well.
Obviously, there is no quick fix for lessening the fear associated with serving our brightest students. The key is to remember that as educators, we should see these students as our opportunity to become stronger teachers. For it is the accelerated students who challenge us to challenge them. They have a right to the best education that can be provided–just as any other student. For parents with advanced children, become as knowledgeable as possible is crucial. knowledge is power. While it is important to trust those educators who serve your children, it is also important to understand that it is your job to challenge the educators to serve your bright child. Everyone serving the student wants the same outcome….the highest level of achievement possible. In order to ensure this occurs, everyone must work together and hold each other accountable.
Next article: Saying Yes to Acceleration